Unless you’re somehow completely cut off from the internet, you have already experienced the benefits of cloud computing. Cloud technology has been used transportation, communication, entertainment, food services, even space exploration. And when people talk of cloud computing, it usually has to do with the cloud’s biggest service provider, Amazon Web Services. That’s because AWS covers so many online services and even entire industries: Netflix, Johnson & Johnson, The Discovery Channel, Samsung, NASA…the list goes on.
The reason for AWS’s enormous impact is due to its the wide variety of services.
Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2)
One of the core AWS services, Amazon EC2 is a powerhouse that can run any application you wish. Using virtual machines called instances, EC2 can be scaled up or down to provide whatever computational power needed, with each server capable of providing instances in the hundreds of thousands (hence the term “elastic”).
You can configure your instances for either Windows or Linux and choose from a variety of sizes and CPU or GPU combinations. For greater redundancy and/or better latency, you may even choose between instances in AWS Regions, which are different geographical locations around the world.
Elastic Block Storage (EBS)
An EBS volume stores data much like a hard drive on a physical computer—except that it’s on the cloud and, as the name suggests, you scale your storage up or down as needed. An EBS volume may have as little as 1GB in size to as much as 1TB. With it, you can access persistent files like operating systems and applications whenever you like.
Note that while you can attach an EBS volume to only one instance at a time, you may attach several EBS volumes to the same instance. You may also boot from an EBS volume instead of an EC2 instance, given that instances don’t have much space. This way, when you need to shut down an instance, you can preserve the operating system, files, and applications when you need to restart the instance at a later time.
Elastic Load Balancer (ELB)
Remember that we discussed AWS Regions as a way to provide greater redundancy and lower latency? AWS Regions are further subdivided into different accessibility zones. Should one fail, another zone will remain available for use.
Another reason to use Availability Zones is for load balancing. Simply put, if the EC2 instances in the first Availability Zone are facing a spike in load, they may share that burden with the second Availability Zone, or even distribute it across multiple Zones. Elastic Load Balance does this for you without needing manual intervention. This way, services like Netflix can run smoothly even with a sudden surge in users.
Simple Storage Service (S3)
If you are looking to store data that needs to be seen publicly, such as a website like Twitter, Amazon offers Simple Storage Service. S3 is useful for static content. Once uploaded, they are called objects and are stored in buckets.
Users may upload anything they want to S3, such as music, images, and even entire websites. As with the other services, S3 may scale up or down as needed and you only pay for what you use.
While these are the most commonly used AWS services, the list is far from complete. Even more sophisticated services await you in the AWS homepage, including ones for machine learning (Amazon SageMaker), the Internet of Things (AWS IoT), and data warehousing (Amazon Redshift). As such, AWS offers an enormous amount of value to small and big users alike.
Marc is a senior consultant and co-founder at copebit. He has been working in IT for more than 22 years in various positions. He is a certified AWS Solution Architect (Associate) and has a holistic AWS knowledge.